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Making Votes Count: They Don't in Israel!

Paul Eidelberg
Policy Paper No. 79, 1999


Israelis vote, but their votes do not count. Why? Because Israelís parliamentary electoral system is based on fixed party lists, not on district or constituency elections. Knesset Members (MKs) owe their position, power, and perks not to the voters but to party bosses. This violates the principle of representative democracy. Indeed, of 75 countries having democratic elections for the lower (or only) branch of the legislature, Israel is the only one that does not have district elections. The consequences are profound. Since MKs must kowtow to their party leaders who head the various cabinet ministries, they cannot effectively exercise the vital function of administrative oversight. This accounts very much for the bureaucratic corruption, inefficiency, and violations of law and procedures reported (in vain) by the State Comptroller. Moreover, since the Government consists of MKs whose position does not depend on constituency elections, the Government can, and often does, ignore public opinion with impunity, and on issues concerning the borders and capital of the state. In fact, the absence of district elections in Israel led to Oslo as well as to Wye! So long as Israel operates under this undemocratic electoral system, it will limp from crisis to crisis, or from Jerusalem to Washington, until it disintegrates.

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